Suspected armed cultists yesterday set ablaze the Divisional Headquarters of the police at Oporoma, the headquarters of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
It was learnt that the attack was carried out after a suspected cultist involved in the rescue mission of another cult member from the police was shot dead.
According to convener of a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Patriotism Advancement and Community Orientation Network, Comrade Aluzu Ebikebuna Augustine, the incident threw the community into chaos.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Asinim Butwat, confirmed the incident.
He said: “Report indicated that a suspected cultist who was on police wanted list for various heinous crimes such as kidnapping, sea robbery, armed robbery, and acts of pipeline vandalism, was arrested and detained at the Oporoma Police Division, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, preparatory to be transferred to the State Criminal Investigations Intelligence Department (SCIID), Yenagoa.
“The suspect, on 21 March, 2018, attempted to escape from lawful custody and was shot by the police officer on duty. Other members of the suspect’s cult group mobilised and attacked officers on duty at the police division and set it ablaze. Additional policemen were deployed to restore normalcy in the community.
“There seems to be emergence of cases of cultism in Bayelsa State. We call on members of the public to volunteer useful information and to assist the police in curbing the ugly trend of cultism among our teeming youths.”
Meanwhile, the state House of Assembly yesterday commenced the process to amend the Secret Cult Bill to include a 20-year-jail term for any person arrested and sentenced for cult violence and activities in the state.
The motion for amendment, which was moved on the floor of the Assembly by the leader of the House, Hon. Peter Akpe (Sagbama 2), also included the legal backing to the police to search any vehicle suspected to carry illegal arms and ammunition, and arrest suspects. It also empowers the magistrate to remand any suspect arrested for cult-related activities for 30 days.
The amendment also empowers the governor to revoke the Certificate of Occupancy of any property or premises used to hold meetings of suspected cult groups in the state.
Deliberating on the Secret Cult/Societies and Similar Activities Prohibition (Amendment) Bill, 2018 on the floor of the House, the lawmakers agreed that with the worrisome rise in cult activities and killings in the state, the amendment would provide the needed bite to the security personnel to deal decisively with suspected cultists with legal restraints.
Akpe, who presented the first reading of the amendment and also sought the permission of the House for expeditious reading of the Bill at the second reading, said the amendment was needed to strengthen the law against cultists.
He said: “At inception in 2012, the present administration silenced secret cult activities with the passage of the Secret Cult Prohibition Bill. But now, the Bill seems not have achieved the desired effect. The Bill is to be strengthened because the state government and the Assembly are interested in a peaceful society.”